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A Brief History of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

The Metropolitan Opera began sponsoring a structured auditions program for young singers in 1935 with the Auditions of the Air, the ancestor of the present Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. The Auditions of the Air was a radio program that featured exceptionally talented young American singers who were auditioning to become part of the Met’s working roster. The first prize was a contract with the Metropolitan Opera.

Fifteen broadcasts were aired the first year, and eventually, singers such as Risë Stevens, Eleanor Steber, and Robert Merrill were brought to the Met’s attention through the Auditions of the Air. Although its corporate sponsor, Sherwin-Williams Paint Company,

realized after the inaugural season that the program was not the advertising vehicle they hoped it would be, they continued to support and expand the program. Sherwin-Williams sponsored the auditions for the next ten years, through the 1944-45 season during which 217 broadcasts were presented.

No auditions were held during the 1945-46 and the 1946-47 seasons. The Auditions of the Air returned for the 1947-48 season, and from the 1950-51 through the 1957-58 season they were carried by the American Broadcasting Company as a public service program. Rudolf Bing eliminated an automatic contract with the Metropolitan Opera as a prize when he became general manager in 1950, although contracts could still be given at the discretion of the Met’s artistic staff.